Background 

The Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA) Study is a project led by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the New Partnership of Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Planning and Coordinating Agency and supported by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and the UN World Food Programme  (WFP).

COHA is a multi-country study aimed at estimating the economic and social impacts of child undernutrition in Africa. This continent-wide initiative is being led by the African Union Commission Department of Social Affairs, within the framework of the Revised African Regional Nutrition Strategy (2005-2015), the objectives of the African Task Force on Food and Nutrition Development (ATFFND) and the principles of pillar 3 of the AU/NEPAD’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

In March 2012, the COHA Study was presented to African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, who met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The ministers issued Resolution 898 confirming the importance of the study and recommending it continue beyond the initial stage. The core implementers of the study are national teams set up in each participating country, which are drawn from relevant governmental institutions, such as the Ministries of Health, Education, Social  Development,  Planning  and Finance, and the national statistics institutes.

The COHA study is being carried out in phases in 12 countries, namely Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Rwanda, Swaziland and Uganda. Presently the study is being implemented in the second phase countries - Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi and Rwanda. The first phase countries included Egypt, Ethiopia, Swaziland and Uganda. 

Reactions to the Study

"The Cost of Hunger Study provides us with the evidence-base for building a case for food security, communication, advocacy and policy discourse on nutrition. The study reveals that we can no longer afford to have high prevalence rates of under-nutrition and has given the justification for increasing investment in scaling up nutrition interventions and ensure availability of food and good nutrition.”

- Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi of Uganda

 “We are talking about demographic dividends. And I can’t think of a better way to starting to earn this dividend – and when we talk about preparing our youth, preparing, our children, [we should think] in terms of nutrition and getting them to the position to eventually become productive members of their community. We will use [COHA] to plan our post 2015 agenda and what we want to achieve.”

- Commissioner of Social Affairs, Mustapha Kaloko, AUC

“I think we have made the case in front of the ministers of finance, economic development and planning about the need for us to invest a lot in human capital. It is one of the tracks that will make this transformation possible. What we have not said enough is how we are going to go about developing human capital… human capital starts with children and if we don’t take care of them in terms of nutrition, the costs are very high.

"We always talk about returns on investments and the returns on this investment are underrated. This is a unique and important investment, but we need to make the case in much stronger terms. That’s why the research done in Africa and providing evidence based contribution is extremely important. And this study is already producing this with its reports.”

- Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of ECA

 “Like in Latin America, the analysis in Africa shows that —beyond the social and ethical dimensions— undernutrition and its consequences have a major impact on the economies, and this is a warning of how urgently action is needed. Moreover, this study is particularly relevant for ECLAC as a clear example of South-South cooperation and speaks to the importance of sharing experiences, analytical frameworks and methodologies between Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean.”

- Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC

 "The Cost of Hunger Study in Africa could not have come at a better time, when there is significant attention given to issues of eradicating hunger and malnutrition in order to boost and accelerate development on the continent.

 To this end, the results of this Cost of Hunger Study are proving pivotal in giving the nutrition and broader development communities the much needed evidence and good arguments to invest in nutrition. This study provides us a unique opportunity to design better evidence based policies and develop effective programmes.

- Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, NEPAD CEO

“It is compelling data and I am also very pleased to hear the enthusiasm and the interest. This exercise is a strong partnership exercise and it is very encouraging to hear from [partners]. The most important thing here is that we have heard the strong interest from national government, because it is national governments who need to design the policies and need to implement the policies. And that’s where we come in, as supporters.”

- Elisabeth Rasmusson, WFP Assistant Executive Director

 “I want to commend this project. It is an eye-opener, and it needs to be encouraged. We are grateful to be part of this important [study]. We know we don’t have the means to change it all overnight, but we are doing a lot.”

- Prince Hlangusemphi Dlamini, Minister of Economic Planning and Development, Swaziland

 “We [tend to] still look into handling this [nutrition] issue from the aspect of spending or charity work. This should be viewed as investment, not as extra cost of spending or charity work.”

- Mohamed Edrees, Egyptian Ambassador to the African Union